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Gondola Decals

Southern Pacific GS gondola

Good news for Southern Pacific modelers! Protocraft has reversed it’s policy and started offering decals in HO scale. The company had previously stated it was going to stay in the O-scale market, and leave the HO market to others.

Included in this change of heart, there are several decals for Southern Pacific GS Gondolas.

Protocraft Decals for G-50-15/-22
Decals for the G-50-15/-22 (i.e. Red Caboose steel sided GS gondola)

Protocraft Decals for G-50-20/-23 composite Sugar Beet gondola
Decals for the G-50-20/-23 composite side GS gondola (i.e. Red Caboose composite sided GS gondola, with or without beet rack extensions

You can see the entire line of HO decals from Protocraft at this link.

Two Updates

Scalecoat Paint

The big news today is that Minute Man Hobbies announced today on it’s Facebook Page that it has bought the Scalecoat paint line from Weaver Models. As I reported in my last blog, Joe Hayter announced his retirement and closing of Weaver Models earlier this month. This would have been a big blow to the builders in our hobby. I wish them nothing but continued success with this and their other products.

Although Joe Hayter’s retirement sparked my own retirement from model building, the continued availability of Scalecoat Paint does not change my decision to retire. I will be selling off untouched kits and R-T-R models (such as my Genesis cabooses, Athearn SD45T-2s, MTH Daylight Passenger Cars and other models) and my brass models (both steam and diesel). As I’ve said, without a layout to run my trains on, there’s really no reason to build, and they are just cluttering up my home. I will continue in the hobby as a historical researcher of California railroads and the Southern Pacific in particular, although all I can do is parrot what others have said. I have yet to decide the vehicle I will use to dispose of my collection. Ebay is an option, but so are the many groups on Yahoo and Facebook.

GS Gondola Decals

From some e-mails posted to the Steam Era Freight Car List, it seems Tim O’Connor has convinced Hubert Mask of Mask Island Decals to produce decals for the Southern Pacific GS (Drop Bottom) Decals. These are decals I’d worked on producing for myself, but I ran into a lot of problems trying to avoid spending a lot of money to produce the decals myself.

I had prepared artwork for the SP G-50-9/10/11/12 classes (the Ulrich Drop Bottom Gondola) from as-built through the mid 1950s paint schemes, as well as the composite gondolas (G-50-20 and G-50-23 class) and  the steel sided G-50-15 and G-50-18 class. Tim O’Connor had provided Hubert some reference material. I’ve made my artwork available to Hubert for free. He’s free to go forward with the project as he sees fit, but he’s under no obligation to use my artwork. I have gone through a lot of work, from research, buying and learning Adobe Illustrator, to having a final product that I could print if I had the right kind of printer. I don’t, so the option is to convert my OkiData 3200N to print white decals (about a $600 conversion process that Charles Hostetler presented at Cocoa Beach, and will presumably make public next year), or have them commercially printed at $35-$40 a sheet from Kadee or Rail Graphics.

Some modeling notes:

For composite cars (all Sugar Beets were shipped in composite side cars), the Detail Associates (OOP) and Red Caboose cars build to G-50-23 class. The G-50-20 have “Reverse Dreadnaught Ends” that can be modeled by reversing the ends, and modifying the top lip so that it sticks out rather than in. I suggest shaving off the top lip from the end casting (it’s separate on both models), and using thin styrene for the lip.

The Detail Associates (OOP) and Red Caboose steel sided drop bottom gondola with the dreadnaught ends (RC-5000)represents the G-50-18 class. If you substitute the plate ends [Detail Associates FC 6222, or the “UP End” Red Caboose kit (RC-5020)], you will have an accurate G-50-15 class.

Thanks for reading this!

And Another One Bites the Dust

Joe Hayter announced his retirement and closing of Weaver Models, a major player in O-scale model railroading, and producer of Scalecoat Paint.

While I generally prefer other paints for plastic models, Scalecoat is my preferred paint for brass models. It’s a traditional solvent based paint that works very well. Some other paints are finer, and don’t block up details quite as much (although Scalecoat is still very good in this regard), but they are more finicky, especially with regard to humidity, and humidity is a big deal here in tropical Northeast Florida. Scalecoat isn’t negatively effected by our humidity. It’s a wonderful backup plan. Rather, was a wonderful backup plan.

However, the announcement has hit me very hard, and gotten me to think.

What’s the point?

I’m a model builder. I don’t have a layout to run my trains, although some day I’d like to have one. I have plans of building an out-building  on my property following Southern Pacific Common Standard plans for a trackside maintenance building, and building a layout that will depict the Southern Pacific Coast Line between San Luis Obispo and Santa Margarita inside. I keep putting those plans off every year.

There’s a local club, but they only have a modular layout, and don’t maintain the layout so that fine scale models can be operated. I was a member for a few years, but became frustrated when my models wouldn’t tolerate the misaligned joints between modules. Of course, this is my problem, and not theirs, as their equipment with oversize couplers and oversize wheels didn’t exhibit any problems.

So with no place to run my models, the hobby has become one of simply building models for that future layout I keep putting off. The problem is, it’s getting harder and harder to build models anymore.

While we have a plethora of models today – more than I’d ever imagined – they are, for the most part, all “ready to run.” The number of kits available to build has shrunk dramatically. It’s getting harder and harder to find things to build, and even harder to find detail parts, paint, and decals to work with.

The hobby is going in one direction, while I’ve been forced in the opposite. If this were a marriage, divorce would be on the table for discussion. Unfortunately, the manufacturers who supply this hobby aren’t listening. They’re arguing, and for the most part, they’re right. Most model railroaders embrace ready to run models as both “good enough,” and a way to spend more of their hobby time on other activities, such as building layouts or running trains.

As with my local model railroad club, the problem isn’t them – it’s me.

So, what now? I think I’m going to retire (from the hobby), too.

White Decals, Part 2


Well, I know this is hard to see, but that’s part of the problem If we had white lettering on a white background, it should be invisible, but it’s not.

Where the embossing powder is thin enough to reveal print detail, it’s thin enough the black ink shines through. Where it’s thick enough to be opaque, it clumps together to obliterate the lettering. It’s tough to get even coverage of the embossing powder. There are places on the decal that there’s embossing powder where there was no ink that I thought the heat gun would blow off.

The Testors decal film reminds me of Champ decals: very thick.

Time to regroup. Investigate refining the method and materials, and talk to others who’ve been successful. There are other options noted in Part 1 I need to investigate. There’s a clinic at next weekend’s Prototype Rails on printing white decals with a laser printer that I hope to learn more.

The artwork took me a long time to create. More than I bargained for, but I won’t give up and let it go to waste!

White Decals, Part 1

I have a couple of projects where I need to print my own decals. A particular problem with printing decals is how to print white? Most printers don’t print white. They rely on the white of the paper. But if you’re printing on something that isn’t white, like clear decal film, the vast array of printers out there gets reduced to a handful.

By far the most popular printer for modelers seeking to print decals are the ALPS Micro Dry series of printers. Introduced in 1996 or 1997 (the MD-1000 manual is copyright January 1997, although Systems Consulting claims to be an ALPS supplier since 1996), the Micro Dry series was unique in that it deposited wax pigment on the paper, rather than ink dyes or pigment. Producing photo-realistic output (early models boasted 300 dpi, the same as most commercial print labs, while later models boasted 600 dpi output), the printer further distinguished itself with the ability to print “spot colors.”

The ability to print “spot colors” added the ability to print white and metalic colors (silver and gold) – something no other consumer printer could do at the time. The benefit to modelers was that white could be printed on the clear decal film, both to print white, and to give better print density. For instance, a clear decal film printed with yellow ink will look very dark on a dark background, and the color will shift toward the hue of the underlying color (i.e. Box Car Red). The ability to first print white, and then the color desired gave the ability to print truly opaque decals, rather than ones that were translucent.

But in 2000, facing competition from Epson, Canon, and other printer manufacturers of inkjet printers, ALPS decided to withdraw from the retail printer market. Some printers continued to be available in Japan, and several companies (Kodak, OKI-Data, Citizen, Roland, Powis, and possibly others) had ALPS build printers under their name. In March 2007, ALPS finally shut down production of both printers and supplies (including the coveted white cartridges).

With limited supplies, prices for remaining stock continue to escalate, as do the value of used printers (even though there are very few repair options). There are other problems. For many years, you could only operate these printers on Macintosh or Windows computers using Windows XP or earlier. However, there is now a driver for at least the later MD-5000 series printer available that supports Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. Street prices for used MD-5000 and MD-5500 printers are from $750 on up.

If this were a viable printer (i.e. Drivers and printing supplies available) with a price tag of under $500, I would buy it. But it isn’t. With the diminishing supply of printer ribbons, these printers will not be around much longer. I’m surprised they’ve lasted this long. Several commercial “cottage industry” decal manufacturers who depended on the ALPS printer have already closed shop, which is a shame, as the artwork would still be useful.

This got me investigating alternatives:

1. Okidata Laser Printer: Okidata makes a couple of laser printers that print white targeted at the textile industry – T-shirt printers. The Oki 711WT and proColor pro920WT. These printers are meant to print textile transfers, and I haven’t been able to find any information on how suitable these printers would be for waterslide decal production. Street price for the 711WT is about $3,400, and about $7,500 for the pro920WT. This is well beyond what I can afford as a hobbiest, and I haven’t done a business case analysis to see if something like this would be economically feasible as a startup business, even if I had  the time to dedicate to such a business.

2. Converted laser printers: Automatic Transfers, Inc. offers several color laser printers converted to dye sublimation, replacing the black toner cartridge with white. The normal Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow toner cartridges have to be replaced with dye sublimation toner in order to overprint the white toner. Prices are on their web site.

3. Dry Transfer from laser printers: DecalPro® FX is an interesting concept, using a colored film (including white!) to bond to the toner using a laminator. At the end, only the foil (with the black toner underneath) is applied to the model. No decal film! However, white is the thickest film they have available, and it may have to be “doubled up” to be truly opaque. Aside from the laminator and a heat gun, prices seem relatively inexpensive compared to the above choices.

4. White Embossing Powder: This was a tough to find tip. It had elluded me for several months, but I found mention of it on an aircraft modeler forum, and have been intrigued enough to give this a try. Embossing powder is used in craft projects, such as card-making. Paper is stamped with some sort of adhesive. Then the powder is sprinkled on. Heat from a heat gun is then used to dry the adhesive, and set the embossing powder. The loose powder (that wasn’t bonded with the stamped adhesive) can be collected revealing the desired pattern in the desired color.

That works for handmade greeting cards, but how about our models? Well, theory is that you print your decal paper with an inkjet printer. Since the decal paper doesn’t absorb the ink, the ink will stay wet for some time. Long enough that you can sprinkle the embossing powder on the decal paper, and the wet ink will grab onto the embossing powder. Heat the decal paper with a heat gun, and the embossing powder bonds to the decal. Remove the excess embossing powder (if the heat gun hasn’t blown it off already), and seal with clear acrylic. Testor’s makes a suitable spray, although I’ll be trying this with Tamiya gloss clear acrylic. I’m much better with an airbrush than a spray can.

I’ve got the decal paper and the clear. My embossing powder should arrive next week. I’ll give this last option a try and report back in part 2. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try the DecalPro® FX option.

Wish me luck!

A Spindle Brake for the Mini Mill

Spindle Brake
A while back, I noticed that if I had a Dial Test Indicator (DTI) in my mill, usually to check alignment of a vise, the reading could be off if the spindle moved even slightly. I needed a way to lock the spindle. There are plenty of spindle locks for the Sieg X2 (sold by Harbor Freight Tools, Grizzly Industrial, Inc., and others), but that mill has a slightly different head owing to it’s gear drive vs. the belt drive (and higher torque motor) on the Sieg SX2 (sold by Little Machine Shop, Micro-Mark, and others). No spindle lock was available for the SX-2. I thought of making my own, but…

Little Machine Shop recently started carrying a Spindle Brake for the Sieg SX-2 mill. Made by Preist Tools, Inc, this is a wonderful addition to my mill, securing the spindle. Most people will use this when tightening the collets, but this will really help with accuracy ensuring the vice or part being machined is properly oriented on the mill’s table.

About the only negative is you can do some serious damage if power is applied when the pin securing the spindle is engaged. Update: It was inevitable. I accidently turned on the mill with the spindle brake on, and no damage occuredd. There is another model that includes a safety switch, but it’s more than twice as expensive, and the bottom surface isn’t flat. I need a flat bottom to attach my LED spindle light, and I can live without the interlock, so this is the unit for me.

In short: highly recommended upgrade for those of you with the Sieg SX2.

Atlantic Coast Line Steam Locomotive 1504

Atlantic Coast Line 1504
In 1906, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) was empowered by congress to set maximum shipping rates, in an effort to curb what the public (or rather, the shippers) considered price gouging. The reality is this was a period of economic inflation, and, hamstrung, railroads had a tough time meeting rising costs. By late 1915, 1/6th of all railroad trackage belonged to railroads in receivership. That is, the railroads were bankrupt, yet allowed to continue to operate under strict financial controls as they reorganized. This was exacerbated in 1916 by the threat of a strike, with railroad workers seeking shorter days. To avert the strike, Woodrow Wilson signed the Adamson Act, shortening the work day to 8 hours.

Although World War I started in 1914, the United States did not enter the war until April 6, 1917, after the British showed the US an intercepted coded telegram from German Foreign Minister Arthur Zimmermann to Germany’s ambassador in Mexico, Heinrich von Eckhardt promising US land to Mexico if they joined the war. This telegram is known as the Zimmerman Telegram.

As you can imagine, US Railroads were not in a position to fully support this new war effort, resulting in heavy delays, so the ICC recommended nationalization of the nations railroads under the auspecies of the United States Railroad Administration (USRA). Among the changes the USRA implemented were standard designs for locomotives and rolling stock.

The USRA designs utilized mostly state-of-the-art designs, commensurate with the material shortages common during any war. The designs were so modern, that even after USRA control ended in 1920, railroads continued to order copies of the designs, applying evolutionary changes to keep the design current.

Among the original USRA locomotives were a series of Light Pacifics for passenger duty. The Atlantic Coast Line (ACL) received 45 of these locomotives, classed P-5-A, and went on to order an additional 25 copies. This brings us to ACL 1504, one of the original USRA Light Pacifics.

ACL president Champion Davis wanted a locomotive on display in front of the new ACL General Office Building on the banks of the St. John’s River in downtown Jacksonville, Florida. He and John W. Hawthorne, head of the ACL Mechanical Department, selected 1504 as the best candidate among remaining steam locomotives. In 1960, after being in storage since her retirement in 1952, the engine was given a thorough mechanical overhaul and placed on display in front of the then new ACL General Office Building in Jacksonville.

The locomotive stood proudly there until 1986, when the locomotive was moved to its current location in the parking lot of the Prime Osborne convention center, the former Jacksonville Union Terminal.

ACL 1504 Move.mpg

In October, 1990, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers designated her an Engineering Landmark. However, ACL 1504 now tops the National Railway Historical Society‘s list of Top Eight Endangered U.S. Railroad Landmarks.

So how bad is it? Last night, I attended a meeting of the North Florida Chapter NRHS. ACL 1504 had been surveyed in July to determine the extent of the damage resulting from unprotected storage for all these years, and the recommended remediation to preserve and protect this important landmark. Mark Frazier provided the following report:

Atlantic Coast Line Steam Locomotive 1504

Named the NRHS most endangered Railroad Landmark in the Nation

1)       Events leading up to the inspection

  1. NRHS Announces Top Eight Endangered U.S. Railroad Landmarks

i.      Widely considered one of the Southeast’s most important railroad resrouces, no. 1504 represents the plight of park locomotives accross the nation left exposed to the elements, whose maintenance needs outpace the allotted resources.

ii.      It has been on display outdoors for over 50 years and is rapidly deteriorating

  1. Strategy meeting

i.      Inspection date set ffor July 13, 2013

ii.      North Florida NRHS agreed to be the agency for receiving and dispersing funding.

2)      July 13, 2013 inspection of 1504

  1. Inspectors

i.      Jay Boggs

ii.      Steve Arrington

iii.      Mark Frazier

  1. General appearance

i.      The display is in a place where few people see it.

ii.      The grey paint has faded and flattened out from the exposure to the elements. (When at display in front of the ACL building, and when first moved too the Prime Osborn center, the locomotive was painted black. I’m not sure when the locomotive was painted grey).

iii.      The locomotive is complete with all the “jewelry” (headlight, bell, whistle, safety valves, number boards, builder plates, marker lights and gauges all still on the locomotive).

iv.      Security is almost nonexistent depending on video surveillance from in the Prime Osborn Center.

  1. Visual inspection, reading the artifact

i.      Access t the display is from the rear and inspection started at the tender from ground level.

  1. Wheels and trucks
    1. all 4 wheel sets have rim stamped wheels solid bearings and the rear wheel set has been welded to the rail. These things render them unserviceable. Journal boxes have been opened left exposed to  the weather at times and filled with rocks.
    2. The trucks have bolted side frames and would not be suitable for service.
    3. Tender cistern and coal bunker
      1. The cistern has suffered much corrosion and decay from the inside out. There are holes in the bottom top and sides, in the bottom near  the rear truck one is larger than a football. The top has 2 large holes at the rear of the bunker. The lower parts of the sides also have evidence of the same decay with several patches that indicate this was an issue while the locomotive was still in service.
      2. Cistern hatch doors are welded shut.
      3. The coal bunker still has the coal pusher and stoker auger in place but both have been exposed to the elements for over 50 years.
      4. The frame of the  tender, draft gear and brake system appear to be in good condition with no major problems or defects visible.
      5. The locomotive cab
        1. The cab is currently not secured in the past it was with locking Plexiglas doors.
        2. All guages and cotrols are intact
        3. The cab itself is in good condition lined with oak boards
        4. Cab windows have rotted and need to be replaced.
        5. Firebox interior
          1. Inspection completed by Jay Boggs
          2. Grates, sheets, and firebrick indicate that there has not been a fire in the firebox after shop work was last completed.
          3. There are no signs of water entry through the flues.
          4. All flues, tubes and super heaters are still in place.
          5. Hammer test detected no broken stay-bolts or scale dropping from the water side of the inner firebox sheets.
          6. Firebox exterior
            1. Visible areas of  the sheets show no signs of pitting or other corrosion or decay.
            2. All flexible stay-bolt caps are intact and in very good condition
            3. Rigid stay bolts that are visible also appear to be new
            4. Boiler Jacketing
              1. Boiler jacket is in sections pop-riveted together with signs of rust at the joints indicating water entry at these seams.
              2. The bottom side of the jacket has decayed and rusted through allowing it to drop down.
              3. It appears that the current jacket was a replacement after an asbestos abatement was performed in the early to mid-1980s.
              4. Looking through openings in the jacket the boiler shell is painted and shows little signs of rust.
              5. The jacket is spaced away from the boiler with spacer blocks.
              6. At this point the jacket is providing protection to the boiler from the elements.
            5. Plumbing and appliances
              1. All steam, water, air and sand pipes are stil in place and connected
              2. All appliances such as compressors, stocker motor, turbo-generator, injectors safety valves, whistle, bell, headlight, marker lights, lubricator and sanders are still on the locomotive and are complete.
            6. Smokebox
              1. Access through the smokebox door was not possible on July 13.
              2. The fireman’s side inspection plate was able to be removed to allow visual inspection behind the netting.
              3. There were signs of moisture entry into the smokebox.
              4. The stack is capped however it is unkown when the cap was placed on the stack. Moisture entry may have been through an ucapped stack at one time.
            7. Cylinders, saddle, valves and rods
              1. The biggest notable thing about this part of the locomotive are the plates installed on the back side of the crosshead preventing movement of the rods, pistons, and drivers.
              2. The cylinder saddle has reinforcement rods added around the valve chest.
              3. The rods and valve gear have machine tool marks still on them indicating little to no wear on them since the locomotive was last shopped.
            8. Locomotive wheels and running gear
              1. Access under the locomotive and between the frames was not possible on July 13 due to weather conditions; therefore inspection was from the outside only.
              2. All the locomotive wheels and tires appear to be in very good condition and still show tool mars from being turned in a wheel lathe.
              3. All of the axles are riding on solid bearings ith only the trailing truck having the bearings on the out end of the axle.
              4. Most of  the leaf springs appear to be in good condition however there were a couple of leaf tat did show some rust damage between the leaves.
              5. The trailing truck has had some modifications done that did look questionable and will need further evaluation.

3)      Over evaluation and grading

  1. Locomotive overall grade B+

i.      1504 for a display locomotive is in very good condition and is 99% complete

ii.      The appearance of the locomotive is not looking good to the general public due to the faded dull grey paint and the rust staining and streaking from the rust under the jacket seams

iii.      Mechanically it appears that 1504 has never run since a total rebuild.

  1. Tender overall grade D-

i.      The tender wheels, trucks and tank are beyond saving for any future use and only basic cosmetic repair should be considered.

ii.      The tender frame and draft gear appear to be usagle as a good base for a rebuilt tender if ever needed.

4)      Recommendations

  1. Set up one group or organization to oversee the 1504 in the future

i.      Come to an agreement with the City of Jacksonville for future control of the locomotive either through a lease or purchase

ii.      Establish an ACL 1504 brand

iii.      Plan what the future of the locomotive will be

iv.      These steps will take time and need to become the foundation for the future. This is not something that should be done in a rush and may take several months.

  1. Cosmetic work yet this fall

i.      Secure the bottom of the jacket back toether and pull it back into place.

ii.      Seal seams in the jacket.

iii.      Paint the entire locomotive and tender

iv.      Cosmetic work to tender only

  1. Remove loose rust.
  2. Stabilize rusted areas.
  3. Rill holes with sheet metal where necessary and smooth with body filler
  4. Paint and letter entire tender

v.      Secure cab.

  1. Make and install new cab windows
  2. Remove cloudy Plexigrall from between locomotive and tender
  3. Install see through barrier across  the rear of the cab that will keep cab area secure but still visible.

vi.      Consider that all work done this fall is for 3-5 years and is only stabilization move till the next phase can be planned.

5)      Final summary, the overall condition of the ACL 1504 and its historic significance indicate that this is not a locomotive that should be neglected in a parking lot on display. Therefore immediate stabilization measures should be taken as soon as possible. Long term planning for the future should also begin now. These plans should include taking necessary steps that would continue to prepare the locomotive for possible restoration to operation if the opportunity would present itself. This would include not doing damage to the locomotive or building obstacles in the way of any future restorations.

In recent years we have seen locomotives steaming that were to never steam again and are running under steam on railroads that said they would never run on. Union Pacific has recently announced the ultimate restoration of a Big Boy Locomotive something we  were told for years would never happen. It comes down to that never comes much sooner than many think it will and we must never give up.

This report was prepared with the assistance of Diversified Rail Services who also have done an inspection of 1504 and deemed the 1504 a rebuild able locomotive. They will also make themselves available in the future as contractors for 1504.


AC4400CW Detail Parts Arrive

2013-09-09_D300_8926-eLook what the postman brought today from Toy Train Heaven! Detail parts for my AC4400CW!

I mostly followed the recommendations on the Details West web site:

  • 1 Detail Associates HO Grille Set Dash 9 Athearn, LIST PRICE $7.5  PN:229-2724 @ $7.50 each (Note 1)
  • 1 Details West HO Detail Kit -9 SP CSX CP, LIST PRICE $15.95  PN:235-230 @ $13.56 each
  • 1 Details West HO Numberboards Dash 7,8,9, LIST PRICE $1.35  PN:235-249 @ $1.35 each
  • 1 Details West HO Fuel fillers/gauges set, LIST PRICE $2.95  PN:235-258 @ $2.95 each
  • 1 Details West HO Bronze Etched Walkway Detail, LIST PRICE $5.95  PN:235-270 @ $5.95 each
  • 1 Details West HO Sinclair Antenna Long 2/, LIST PRICE $1  PN:235-274 @ $1.00 each
  • 1 Details West HO Sinclair Antenna Short 4/, LIST PRICE $1.25  PN:235-275 @ $1.25 each
  • 1 Details West HO Air hose loco w/brckt  2/, LIST PRICE $1.25  PN:235-267 @ $1.25 each
  • 1 Details West HO MU Hose 3 cluster      4/, LIST PRICE $3.5  PN:235-266 @ $3.50 each
  • 1 Details West HO Piping & bracket right set, LIST PRICE $2.95  PN:235-259 @ $2.95 each
  • 1 Details West HO MU cable w/dbl ended recp, LIST PRICE $2.15  PN:235-236 @ $2.15 each
  • 1 Details West HO Ditch lights w/platforms, LIST PRICE $3.5  PN:235-243 @ $3.50 each
  • 1 Cal Scale HO Nathan P3 2 bells forward 1 back , LIST PRICE $3.9  PN:190-543 @ $3.90 each (Note 2)
  • 1 Details West HO Knuckle holder GP50&60, LIST PRICE $1.75  PN:235-210 @ $1.75 each (Note 3)

How does my list differ from the Details West web site?

Note 1: As you’ve seen from my previous posts, the upper radiator screens need some serious help. Let’s hope  this fixes it.

Note 2: The Details West Nathen P-3 three chime horn has the low tone (longest bell) on the engineer’s (right hand) side. As near as I can tell, all Southern Pacific AC4400CWs have the low tone horn on the engineer’s side. Call Scale does it right.

Note 3: The rear pilot of the AC4400CW has a spare knuckle holder on each side. Here is a photo of the back end of SP 105 taken by Jim Bryant, and another of SP 101 taken by Rob Sarberenyi hosted on the fabulous “my ESPEE MODELERS ARCHIVE” web page.

SP AC4400CW Redux


Well, cutting in the Kato radiators into the Athearn shell isn’t so simple. Front to back length of the Athearn radiator section is just shy of 2″ – 1.9995″ by my calipers. That’s painted. Kato’s radiators are 2.037″ long. I measure the Athearn radiator at 1.365″ wide vs. Kato at 1.364″ wide, so that’s probably correct once you subtract paint thickness from two sides.

I think I’m going to have to use the Details West and Details Associates parts to make the best of the Athearn body. I don’t see an easy way to stretch the radiator area 0.037″ without damaging roof detail, nor is there an easy way to shorten the Kato radiator to fit without loss of critical detail.


Now that the Atlas cab came, I can do some comparison. Length of the nose – measured from the center window support to the flat of the front on the nose:

Athearn “Ready to Run” AC4400CW cab: 0.475″
Atlas Dash 8-40BW cab: 0.533″
Kato AC4400CW cab: 0.535″
My stretched Athearn Bue Box AC4400CW cab (per Clyde King’s technique): 0.535″

Frankly, I’m surprised the stretched Blue Box cab came out so well. The Athearn cab seems to be a full 0.060″ too short. I would think that the saw kerf would have shortened the nose somewhat less than the 0.060″ styrene I inserted, but it looks like it came out just right.

The Atlas cab will take a lot of work. There’s no cab sub-base, which will have to come from the Athearn or Kato cab. I’ll have to add a front door to the nose, but that’s available as a detail part. The back window on the fireman’s side needs to be shortened in order to clear the inverter cabinet. All in all, Clyde King’s method of extending the nose is a lot less work.

The Athearn cab was not reworked as part of the “upgrade” in China. The old Blue Box cab has the same texture on the roof that the Ready to Run model has. It just doesn’t show up in photographs of  the bare plastic.

More on the Kato AC4400CW:

Researching the Kato AC4400CW, there’s an early and a late version of the shell. This had troubled me, because I believe the original run of the Kato AC4400CW predates the inverter cabinet change. Well, the early version was produced with the same style inverter cabinet as used by the SP (and the Athearn model). So why not use it? Well, first off, it’s not currently available, and secondly, as near as I can tell, it was only offered with the number boards in  the nose instead of above the cab windows. The “deal killer” is the equipment blower filter box air intake. The intake grill and X-panel are reversed from the orientation on the Southern Pacific and Athearn models. So if you come across the earlier Kato locomotive on eBay or at a swap meet, and the orientation of the intake grill and X-panel on the equipment blower filter box air intake aren’t important (or less of a compromise than all the other work), then it might be a viable model for you.

SP AC4400CW Radiators

SP 340 Radiator courtesy John MosbargerThe real deal: Southern Pacific #340 courtesy John Mosbarger. Click on image to enlarge.

Special thanks to John Mosbarger for allowing me to use his photo showing the radiator details for SP 340. To recap, let’s compare this to the Athearn and Kato HO models:

2013-08-10_D300_8759-eAthearn’s AC4400CW radiator grills.

2013-08-10_D300_8775-eKato AC4400CW radiator grills.

I think it should be obvious why I’m so disappointed in the Athearn tooling here. I’m not sure if changing the Athearn model is the way to go (sacrificing a $45 Kato shell just to get the radiator section). On the other hand, I now have the Kato AC4400CW shell, and it seems to be a lot more work to get the Kato AC4400CW(-CTE?) to represent the earlier Southern Pacific prototype.

I’m still waiting on the Atlas radiator section and cab from the Dash 8-40BW model, but upon further review, the radiator section is not usable. It has 6 smaller radiator sections instead of 4 larger ones, and is missing the panel to the rear of the radiator grills:

Atlas Dash 8-40B and Dash 8-40BW Radiator

Atlas Dash 8-40B and Dash 8-40BW radiator grills

I also need to revisit the Details Associates 2724 grills with the Details West DS-270 etched bronze walkway panels, trying to improve upon what I did back in 2004:

Athearn “Blue Box” AC4400CW with Details Associates 2724 grills and Details West DS-273 etched bronze walkway panels.

While the Kato looks the nicest, It’s an expensive option, and I’ll need some consistency if I do any more AC4400CWs or Dash 9-44CWs

By the way, take some time to visit John’s site on the Southern Pacific Shasta route, “The road of a thousand wonders!”